Home News Featured News Singapore and the Lees fighting over political system: WSJ

Singapore and the Lees fighting over political system: WSJ

Will squabbling in the ruling family lead to more political debate?




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An opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal said the fight between the Lee’s in Singapore is about the tiny Island state’s political system.

It said the younger Lees accused the Prime Minister of abusing his power.

“[W]e have felt threatened by Hsien Loong’s misuse of his position and influence over the Singapore government and its agencies to drive his agenda.

“We are concerned that the system has few checks and balances to prevent the abuse of government.” Lee Hsien Yang, the former CEO of Singapore’s largest listed company, said he will leave Singapore because he fears retaliation.

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The opinion piece also said after Singapore’s founder, Lee Kuan Yew, died in March 2015, some expected his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, to face a challenge from leading figures in the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).

Instead the revolt has come from within his family.

The feud is ostensibly about Lee Kuan Yew’s house, which according to his will should be demolished.

Most shocking, the two younger Lees accuse their brother and his wife, Ho Ching, of nepotism.

“His political power is drawn from his being Lee Kuan Yew’s son. We have observed that Hsien Loong and Ho Ching want to milk Lee Kuan Yew’s legacy for their own political purposes. We also believe, based on our interactions, that they harbour political ambitions for their son, Li Hongyi. ”

The Prime Minister responded, “Ho Ching and I deny these allegations, especially the absurd claim that I have political ambitions for my son.”

Singapore under Lee Kuan Yew prided itself on clean government and meritocracy, but another part of his legacy was the suppression of criticism.

When publications and opposition politicians expressed concerns similar to those now being raised, the government found ways to silence them.

The government also used the Internal Security Act to detain those it deemed subversive without trial.

Lee Kuan Yew held Singapore’s elite together through a web of personal connections and prestige, and the PAP’s rule has never been seriously challenged, said the opinion piece.

“The squabbling among his children reveals cracks in this consensus, and the big question is whether this will result in serious political opposition.

“Singapore is a wealthy and stable society that could benefit from more robust democratic debate.”

Appeared in the June 23, 2017, print edition of the Wall Street Journal

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